Kern County’s ban on the commercial cultivation, processing and distribution of cannabis went into effect on Monday.
No referendum or lawsuit – half expected given Kern’s contentious history with the marijuana industry – was filed to block it.
But on Tuesday the Kern County Board of Supervisors will look at how they themselves might roll back a corner of the blanket ban they created on Oct. 24.
An exception proposed by Supervisor Mike Maggard, one of the most vocal opponents of marijuana shops on the board, is aimed at helping people who use marijuana for a medical condition obtain the drug.
Maggard’s idea: Allow mobile medical marijuana delivery.
“My hope for Tuesday is that we will have a good discussion about how to allow those in need of medicinal marijuana to have access to it while at the same time protecting our neighborhoods from the negative impacts of the dispensaries that have been there so long,” Maggard said.
He’s very interested in searching for the right balance between those interests, he said.
Kern County Counsel Mark Nations was tasked with exploring the legal and logistical ramifications of allowing mobile marijuana delivery.
Supervisors will review his report during their regular meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Nations’ findings boil down to a simple idea. If supervisors want to allow a delivery-only medical marijuana service, they can do it. The details are a little more complicated.
Maggard was clear that he doesn’t want storefront shops in county jurisdiction – the unincorporated area outside the limits of Kern’s cities.
Nations offered up a list of rules the county could use to tailor the plan to Maggard’s specifications:
• Allow up to six dispensaries spread out across the 8,000 square miles of Kern County.
• Only allowed in industrial zones.
• Require set backs of 1,500 feet from schools, day cares, facilities, churches and youth centers.
• A conditional use permit and state license would be required.
• Dispensaries would be closed to the public.
• Marijuana could only be delivered to a patient’s residence.
• Patients and caregivers would have to show identification and proof of valid medical use.
• Dispensaries could not grow, process or test cannabis.
• They would have to track and record transactions.
• Violating the county ordinance could result in loss of the county permit to operate.
The county has some limitations on what steps it can take to implement Maggard’s plan, Nations said.
The question of where the mobile dispensaries could actually deliver marijuana is a bit of a sticky one, he said.
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, Nation said, clearly states that jurisdictions cannot ban the transportation of marijuana on a public roadway.
But there is a staunch debate between lawyers about whether a city or county can prevent the act of delivering that marijuana to a person, he said.
So Nations' report suggests that any mobile delivery be limited the unincorporated areas of the county, outside city limits.
He said that, under the concept he is presenting to the board, a shop that delivered into the city could be in violation of the county ordinance and put its conditional use permit at risk.
Still, Nations said, the county dispensaries could be an option for cities to consider for medical marijuana patients.
“Why don’t you give them the benefit of the doubt and let them get it from a licensed facility,” he said.
Another big question is how many dispensaries to allow.
While Nations understands that there is a desire from supervisors to limit cannabis businesses to the greatest extent possible, he said, more than one mobile dispensary needs to be permitted.
“If you limit it to one you’re talking about delivering to an area that is 8,000 square miles. That’s not really feasible,” he said.
For the same geographical reason, he said, the shops should be spread out across the county.
Allowing mobile delivery services doesn’t take away the county’s opportunity to enforce the overarching ban on storefront marijuana shops.
In fact, a new state regulation gives cities and counties that have banned commercial cannabis new tools to help enforce their ordinances.
Any shop without a state license can be charged civil penalties up to three times the license fee.
That could mean, Nations said, a $12,000 daily penalty on a shop for each day it remains open in violation of state and local rules.
And the jurisdiction would also have the right to seize and destroy the shop’s inventory of marijuana products.
“These guys that are out there running illegal dispensaries – that’s what they’re going to be facing,” Nations said.
Penalty fees are an incentive for local jurisdictions to go after those shops, he said.
“They get the money,” Nation said.